tv Face the Nation CBS October 14, 2012 8:30am-9:00am PDT
>> schieffer: today on "face the nation," what really happened in libya. it's been more than a month since the american ambassador in libya and three other americans died in an attack on the diplomatic compound there. but it's become the subject of an explosive congressional hearing. >> we felt great frustration and the fact that those demands were ignored or in some cases just never met. >> schieffer: and it's become an issue in the campaign. >> we weren't told they want murder security there. we did not know that he wanted more security there. >> schieffer: state department officials said otherwise as mitt romney was quick to point out. >> the vice president directly contradictedly the sworn testimony of state department fors. officials. he's doubling down on denial. >> schieffer: but why did it take so long for the administration to admit the attack was the work of terrorists when the president of
libya had told us five days after the attack that's what it happened? >> this leaves us with no doubt that this was preplanned, predetermined. >> schieffer: we'll talk to south carolina senator lindsey graham, who has been looking into the situation. and we'll talk to california congressman darrell issa whose committee is investigating. we'll also gret the take of congressman elijah cummings, senior democrat on the committee. then we'll talk about that, the with vice presidential debate, and the campaign with our political panel, david corn of "mother jones" magazine. katrina vanden heuvel of the can the nation. bay buchanan, pollster frank lutz and our own john dickerson. that's a lot but this is "face the nation."
captioning sponsored by cbs from cbs news in washington, "face the nation" with bob schieffer. >> schieffer: good morning. senator lindsey graham is one of the senior republicans on the armed services committee. and he has been looking into this attack. senator, welcome to the broadcast. i know you have been investigating this. have you reached an conclusions on why the administration waited so long to acknowledge this was the work of terrorists? >> well, the facts are there was never a riot. the night in question, september 11, ambassador stevens was being visited by the turkish ambassador. and the coordinated attack lasted for hours with al qaeda-associated militia. my belief is that that was known by the administration within 24 hours. and, quite frankly, susan rice, on your show on september 16, the president on the 18th, the and the 25th, kept talkin talking about an attack inspired by a video. they're trying to sell a
narrative, quite frankly, that the middle east, the wars are receding and al qaeda's been dismantled, and to admit that our embassy was attacked by al qaeda operatives and libya leading from behind didn't work. i think undercut that narrative. they never believed the media would investigate. congress was out of session, and this caught up with them. i think they have been misleading us, but it finally caught up with them. >> schieffer: well, that is a very serious charge you just leveled, senator graham. >> uh-huh. >> schieffer: are you saying the administration deliberately misled the american people to make it look as if terrorism i is-- is not as much of a threat as apparently it is? >> either they are misleading the american people or incredibly incompetent. there was no way with anybody looking at all that you could believe five days after the attack it was based on a riot that never occurred. there was no riot at all. to say that, you're either very incompetent or misleading. this is the same administration
that leaks every detailed of classified operations that are successful. within a week, you had three stories about cyber attacks against the iranian nuclear program. about disrupting the underwear bomber case. any every detail of bin laden, all over the "new york times," all over the press, showing how strong and effective this administration was. so, yes, they're very political when it comes to foreign policy. >> schieffer: well-- >> when something goes bad, they deny, they deceive, and they delay. and the truth is, we're not safer. al qaeda is alive. behind may be dead. al qaeda is alive, and they're counter-attacking throughout the entire region. and the truth is that the foreign policy choices of president obama is allowing the region to come unraveled. >> schieffer: where did you get this information that led you to this conclusion? did you talk to officials there? did you talk to people in the c.i.a.? did you talk to people in the administration? how are you so convinced of what you have just stated? >> the intelligence community on the ground in libya has told
senators corker and myself that within 24 hours, they communicated up to washington that this was a terrorist attack. president of libya on the same date said it was a terrorist attack. the video of the compound shows there was nobody at the benghazi consulate. there was never a group two riot. and the evidence is overwhelming, and the idea that it was spawned by a video and a riot would be-- hold want administration blameless. they said it was a copycat of cairo. it wasn't a copycat. it was a sustained attack that lasted for six or eight hours, using heavy weapons, which undercut the idea that al qaeda has been dismantled and on the run. and it certainly undercut the idea that our policy choices in libya have not-- of not going after the militia, not helping the li libyans train a national army were good choices. >> schieffer: just to help people understand this, i want to play a part of what susan rice, the u.n. ambassador said
it our broadcast five days after the attack and immediately after the president of libya said that this was a work of terrorists. here's what she said: >> we do not have information at present that leads us to conclude that this was premeditated or preplanned. >> so, again, what about this, senator graham? i mean, do you-- i mean, should there be questions now to susan rice? i mean-- >> well, it's not just susan rice. the president of the united states said it was the result of a video on david letterman two days later. and the facts are very clear. there was never a riot. there was never a group of people around the embassy. it was a coordinate terrorist attack that took hours. patrick kennedy from the state department briefed congressional staffers the day after the attack saying it was a terrorist attack. the next day, after she was on your show, the counter-terrorism deputy said it was a terrorist attack. and the president after that
went on national tv "the view" and david letterman talking about we're not sure if this was inspired by a video, a hateful video. the reason they're trying to sell this, if it is true it was an al qaeda-inspired attack that was coordinated involving heavy weapons that lasted six to eight hours and our embassy consulate was so exposed and they had denied numerous requests to reinforce it, is exhibit a of a failed foreign policy. i have seen this movie before. i went to iraq in 2004 and everybody told me things are going fine. iraq was falling apart, and you couldn't get the truth from the busk administration. the middle east is falling apart, and they're trying to spin what happened in libya because the truth of the matter is, al qaeda is alive and well, and counter-attacking. iraq there has been a doubling of al qaeda operatives in iraq since we left, 2500. iran is flying over iraqi airspace to deliver weapons to syria. syria's becoming 30,000 people dead and foreign fighters moving
in to syria. the iranians have quadrupled the amount of enriched uranium they have to build bombs, as the obama administration talks to them. this whole region is about to explode. seaboard on the march. northern mali is now under the control of radical islamists that make the taliban look like choir boys. they're trying to sell something, that the inteleon the grounds on will not it justify. when john kerry said ask bin laden if he is better off. they're creating a false narrative about the true status of al qaeda and it all caught up with them in libya. >> schieffer: senator graham i want to thank you for some very sobering words this morning. thank you very much. we want to go to san diego where the house oversight chairman darrell issa who held hearings on this last week joins us. congressman, do you agree with what you just heard senator graham say based on what you found out at these hearings? >> much of what senator graham
says has been confirmed repeatedly. our hearing was not really about the fact that long after they should have been saying this was a terrorist attack they were still sticking to this story that it somehow was a video and a demonstration. what we did the hearing on, elijah cummings will be on in a few minutes and myself-- was the fact that if security professionals are giving the warning that they need more security, that they need to change how we do business diplomatically in the region, and that's not being heard, then it isn't just ambassador stevens who is now dead. it's everybody who working throughout the middle east is at risk if we cannot get the security level right. and that's why we held the hearing and theld when we did is if they're not being listened to and charlene lamb was very clear-- she thought she didn't make a mistake, even after the ambassador was dead. she stuck by she made the right decision to strip him of much of the security that would have given that extra precious time
to evacuate him. so do we have two problems, the one that the senator is speaking of? absolutely. we need to get the truth. we need to get it real time, and we need to quit having people say something is true when long afterwards they know it isn't. but i think in the case of our committee, we're-- we're recognizing that there were $2.2 billion in a discretionary fund that could have been used for security, still could be used for security enhancements throughout the region. plus the d.o.d., the military, if we need these things to keep our diplomats safe in these countries, we need to start spendings that money and not claim that we don't have enough money. in fact, charlene lamb said money was not a consideration. she just thought they didn't need the security. and quite frankly, we believe they didn't want the appearance of needing the security. and we want to put real security ahead of the appearance of not needing security. >> schieffer: well, senator-- i mean, congressman, i do take your point. but let me also ask you about
this. did not house republicans try to cult a hal cut a half billion dollars from embassy security budgets over the past two years? if we need the security why were your party members saying let's cut these budgets? it sounds like they didn't-- they didn't think you needed it, either. >> we've more than doubled over the last five years, the september budgets 115%. so there's no question at all we have been adding more money and we continue to add more money. there's a lot of talk and congressman-- >> schieffer: i'm sorry, i'm sorry, congressman. i'm not sure-- are you saying that house republicans did not try to cut a half billion dollars from embassy security over the past two years? >> okay. what the democrats are saying and mr. cummings will say in a minute is that we-- quote-- cut 300 million. the vote that reducedly what the president had asked for, which would have been an increase was 149 democrat tolz 147
republicans, and quite frankly, it was, in fact, sufficient. we've been told that. you can't always look to money when there's money sitting there. there's $2.2 billion in discretionary reprogrammable money that wasn't used. the fact is, they are making a decision not to put security in because they don't want the presence of security. in our hearing, and in testimony, we were told they removed their diplomatic plates because they wanted to be invisible. they didn't put any markings on this building that was attacked because they didn't want have 2 have people know they were there. that is not how you do security. after there was a 12-foot hole blown in the wall of this compound, all they defense rebuild the wall, no new reinformat, no kind of capability to protect somebody inside. now, it happened to be an ambassador that was killed, along three others. it could have been any federal employee, any contract employee that was killed. and it still would have been the warning signs were there, and they weren't heeded. the money was there--
>> schieffer: what do you think the reason for all this was when you come down to it? was it simply incompetence? >> this is not very republican, if you will but when president george w. bush went aboard an aircraft carrier and said, "mission accomplished" i listened rightfully so to people who said, look, there are still problems, and they're still dying, and quite frankly, things got worse in many ways after that statement. we're going through a "mission accomplished" moment. americans were tigued september 11 by terrorists who preplanned to kill americans. that happened. and we can't be in denial, particularly when there are-- there are compounds all over want middle east that need to be legitimately protected at a level that security professionals ask for. >> schieffer: what do you plan to do next on the committee? are you going to call u.n. secretary rice, ambassador rice? >> well, mr. cummings has asked for that.
i joined with him in asking for ift. we want to have some additional additional classified briefings on what did they know and when did they know it? after the election i plan to lead a coddle to go and meet with the security officials in country, country we country in many of these areas to hear what they feel they need. if there needs to be supplemental money, of course congress would respond. congress has always responded to specific request for security for our personnel opinion when you simply-- when you have a general accountability study showing, fog, in iraq there was over $200 million that shouldn't have been spent that was wasted, you have to say we give you a certain amount of money. give us specific requests. in this case, the money was there. they chose not to have those security personnel on the ground in leckia. >> schieffer: all right, congressman, thank you for coming on this morning. we're going to be back in one minute to hear from a top democrat on that same committee about this investigation.
>> schieffer: we want to go now to baltimore, the home of congressman elijah cummings. he's the ranking democrat on the house committee investigating the libya attack. we asked the administration to provide someone from the administration to give their take on this story. the administration declined. so congressman, we appreciate you coming on this morning to talk to us. i want to ask you, don't you think there are some genuine questions to be asked about this and how it happened is it. >> bob, first of all, what happened to ambassador stevens and the other three public servants was indeed a horrible tragedy. we will search the killers down and bring them to justice. the one thing we must not do, though, bob is make this out to be a it-- and treat it luke a
political football, and i think that's basically what's happening. we have a situation where we rushed to a hearing. we don't have substantial evidence yet. we're still gathering evidence, coming to conclusions, and looking in search of facts. and this is what has happened. but, again, we-- there's a lot to be answered. and i think you asked the right questions. yeah, there are a lot of things we need to address. but this is not the way to do. we have an faul an f.b.i. hearing going on, investigation going on, and hillary clinton, secretary clinton, has appointed an accountability review board to look at this, and we will get the answers. but the way we're doing it, i think, is basically based on a campaign schedule, trying to give romney some talking points. but i don't think that our men who were killed deserve this. i don't think our diplomatic corps deserves this.
we can do better. >> schieffer: let me just judge you this, congressman, and i say this with all respect-- if there were a car wreck here on m. street outside my office and i looked out the window and saw a car wreck, i wouldn't have to wait until the cops came to know it was a car wreck. i mean it was a car wreck. there were two dozen people in the countdown there. they had windows. they could look out the window. they could see there was no demonstration going on. and yet it was not until last week that the administration admitted that this was a preplanned terrorist attack and not a spontaneous demonstration. >> what certainly-- from what i understand, secretary rice was given information by the intelligence folks. and the intelligence folks said themselveses that they initially got some information indicating that they may have been some type of mob activity outside of this place. as a matter of fact, ambassador
kennedy, under secretary kennedy, the state department, came before our committee-- and by the way he's one of the same people that lindsey graham cited-- he came before our committee and made it clear that if-- and by the way, this is somebody who served every president since president nixon in the state department-- but he came and said if he had the information that-- he had the same information that secretary rice had and it's still an evolving situation, he said he would have said the same thing. bob, bob, i just listened to that interview, both of those interview, and this conspiracy stuff is kind of ridiculous, to be honest with you. and i'm kind of surprised that they've gone to these lengths, but you know, that's what they do. one of the things i'm hoping is they did admit-- issa did admit that we do have a-- that they did try to cut the budget-- they did in fact cut the budget for security, and i'm hoping that they will join me-- that hearing i requested-- that he join me in
getting emergency supplemental for our embassies so we can protect our people. >> schieffer: let me ask this question, then, did this ambassador and three other americans die because of incompetence at the state department? >> you know, i don't-- i really don't think so. as i listened to the witnesses we did hear from, i think people were making their best judgments. and that's why we need to have a hearing so that we can ferret out all of this. keep in mind, we have not heard from anybody who was actually in libya the night of the event. we've heard nobody that was in benghazi the night of the event. we have not had-- our commity has not had a briefing a classified briefing yet. so it seems a bit early to be coming to certain conclusions. one thing is for sure, as issa just admitted, they have basically tried to strip the-- reduce the budget, and they have for security, and romney and
ryan, of course, in their budget, they will take away $400 billion-- $400 million in 2014, and billions of dollars over the next 10 years. >> schieffer: i have to just get a short answer. do you think this is simply a witch-hunt? >> i think that it-- i think it's turning into a witch-hunt. and we can do better. we really can. >> schieffer: all right. congressman, thank you so much for joining thus morning. as we say, we asked the administration for a spokesman. they declined to send one. won't. i'll have some personal thoughts on a very sad day in the nation's capital. music is a universal language. but when i was in an accident... i was worried the health care system spoke a language all its own with unitedhealthcare, i got help that fit my life. information on my phone.
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>> schieffer: some of our stations are leaving us now, but for most of you we'll be back way political panel to talk about the impact of this story on the campaign. plus what's ahead for president obama and governor romney in the next 23 days. and we'll take a look at what some of the late-night comtees so are saying. stay with us. cln ,,,,,,,,